March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
While colorectal cancer is a serious and sometimes deadly disease, it is also preventable and treatable according to a Wyoming Department of Health official.
“We are not helpless when it comes to colorectal cancer. This disease can often be prevented through regular screenings, a healthy diet and regular exercise,” explained Dr. Wendy Braund, state health officer and Public Health Division senior administrator with the Wyoming Department of Health.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Wyoming and across the nation. In 2010 there were 261 cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in Wyoming with 97 resident deaths.
To lower colorectal cancer risk, experts recommend:
· Get regular colorectal cancer screenings after age 50. Between 80-90 percent of colorectal cancer patients are restored to normal health if cancer is detected and treated in early stages.
· Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet.
· For those who drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. Those who use tobacco should quit. Alcohol and tobacco in combination are linked to colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers.
· Exercise for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week.
“Regular screening is essential because colorectal cancer is extremely preventable if polyps that lead to the cancer are detected and removed, and it is very curable if the cancer is found in early stages,” Braund said.
Warning signs for colorectal cancer are often not obvious, but symptoms such as a change in bowel habits, lower abdominal pain, visible blood in the stool, weight loss for unknown reasons, or anemia without an identified cause should be discussed with a medical professional.
“Because the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases as we age, all men and women aged 50 and older should be screened,” Braund said. “In Wyoming, only 54 percent of people age 50-75 have had a colon cancer screening. This rate needs improvement.”
Braund said some people with higher risk should be screened when younger, including those with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer or polyps. “A medical professional can help you decide which screening procedure is right for you and how often it is needed,” she said.
Current screening methods include a simple chemical test that can detect hidden blood in the stool, an x-ray of the colon, a visual examination of the lower part of the colon every five years known as flexible sigmoidoscopy, or a visual examination of the entire colon every ten years known as colonoscopy.
The Wyoming Colorectal Cancer Screening Program helps those who cannot afford screening or who have no insurance coverage for screening by paying for colonoscopy costs for residents who qualify based on age, income and residency. To learn more call 1-866-205-5292 or visit https://ccedp.health.wyo.gov.